Isaiah 9:5 in NABRE—on second thought

Recently I purchased the newly revised NAB Roman Catholic translation, now called NABRE (New American Bible—Revised Edition, 2011). During the Advent midweek services I have explored the titles of Isaiah 9:6 (9:5 in Hebrew and in NABRE), with the final one this Christmas Eve, “Prince of Peace.” Since our church uses the NIV 1984, that is the translation I use for preaching, and is relatively standard for English translations.

English: This is the cover artwork for the New...

New American Bible Revised Edition

NIV 1984: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

But today I was looking at a few other translations, and NABRE (as did the NAB) offered this:

NABRE: For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-counselor, God-hero, Father-forever, Prince of Peace.

Three things stuck out in this translation:

1. Pattern of sentences: NAB follows the Hebrew pattern in the first two phrases, whereas most translations invert the structure (NIV, ESV, etc.). But then why the reverse shift in the third phrase? Thus, we would expect consistency to write: “and dominion will be upon his shoulders.” So it seems odd to switch it for the one phrase, namely putting “upon his shoulder” to the beginning of that sentence? The Hebrew maintains the subject-verb-adverb. This change seems unnecessary and awkward.

2. Switch to 3rd person plural: Why the switch in the next sentence to 3rd person plural— “They name him”? In Hebrew it is “And it shall be called his name…” (waw-convert of 3rd singular verb with noun following for subject “his name” (שְׁמ֜וֹ) to denote future or incompleted action) or more familiarly in English, “And his name shall be called” or as NIV has “And he will be called.” But the inclusion of the 3rd person plural “they” makes no sense here. Often when the passive is used, it indicates that God or God’s agent is behind the scene causing this specific action. But that now changes with the NAB translation. The closest referent for “they” would be those who are mentioned in 9:4 (NAB or 9:5 in other English translations). But would the enemies be the ones to name this child? The New Testament certainly does not support such a view. This leaves me scratching my head.

3. The second name/title is “God-Hero.” Not sure what the advantage of this translation is over the standard translations “Mighty God.” In fact, the NABRE has a footnote reference to Isaiah 10:21, where I would expect the same translation. But no, in 10:21 we read: “A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.” Now, this seems totally unnecessary. If they are referencing the same Hebrew term in the same general context, why translate this in 9:5 as “God-Hero.” Again, another head-scratcher.

Stayed tuned for more on my assessment of NABRE.

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About exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian
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